Ref Watch: Exeter City (H)

I have taken a bit of a leave of absence from the ref watch articles, but after a flurry of people messaging to say they liked them (two, at least), I have decided to bring them back.

Assistants: Graeme Fyvie and Paul Newhouse
Fourth Official: Oliver Bickle

I stopped them for a couple of reasons – they weren’t always right due to late changes, and I felt like I’d misled people. They’re fairly niche as well, and they’re not the most popular of articles. Still, when a Patreon member asks for something, I do my best to provide it.

This week’s official is new to the Football League. Matt Corlett operated as an assistant for nine years before stepping up to referee in 2022/23. His performance in the National League saw him get the playoff final between Chesterfield and Notts County, a game in which he was awarded a fifth-minute penalty.

He stepped up to the EFL this season, and he’s made quite a splash. He sent off three players in his first seven matches, including carding Andy Yiadom late on in Northampton’s 3-1 win against Reading. In those seven matches he also awarded two penalties, both in League Two.

Credit Graham Burrell

Before Christmas, he went on a run of three reds in as many league games – Jordan Turnbull for Tranmere and Joe Lewis for Wimbledon being the first two. That took his red cards in the Football League to four, all for away teams, but his fifth bucked the trend – it was Paudie O’Connor as we went down 2-1 at home to Northampton. Of that red card, I said, “I’ve watched it back, and for me, it isn’t a red. I guess they’re going to say he led with his elbow, but how many times have we seen that against us? Accrington in the EFL Trophy, it happened a couple of times, and there wasn’t even a free kick given, and yet that was deemed a red? I haven’t been on social media today, so I don’t know what the consensus is, but in my eyes, that’s a soft red.” I stand by that.

Since then, there have been no more reds from the man in the middle, who in his real job works in management consultancy services. He has awarded two penalties, most recently for Cheltenham in their 2-0 win against Blackpool. That leaves him 31st for penalties awarded per game in League One, but he’s 18th for fouls awarded per game and 15th for fouls per tackle. You expect those numbers to be close; it shows a degree of consistency, even if he does err towards blowing the whistle.

Given our last three games have seen 25 yellow cards (eleven for us, eight for Burton), it’s perhaps worrying to see we have a ref who is 11th for yellows per game – betting men and women might want to get on more than four yellow cards.